Former ‘Friends’ petition for probe

Former members of the Fellowship of Friends want state officials to investigate the Yuba County-based religious group, contending the nonprofit organization uses donations to fund “the extravagant lifestyle” of its leader Robert Burton and that unpaid labor of foreign nationals developed its Yuba County property.

Workers with religious visas have made possible the vineyard and commercial winery at the Fellowship’s 1,171-acre headquarters in the Sierra foothills community of Oregon House, the petition states.

“This fact has been intentionally hidden from authorities,” according to the petition. “Workers are required to donate back to the church the largest portion of their salary, leaving an average monthly wage of about $460.”

The assertions are part of the petition reviewed by anti-cult attorney Ford Greene, who represented a former Yuba College student in a 1996 lawsuit against the Fellowship.

The suit in Yuba County Superior Court, which asserted that Burton had seduced the former college student, was settled before going to trial and its terms remain confidential.

The petition asserts that most lawsuits against the Fellowship are settled financially and “largely concealed from current followers.”

For further information on the Fellowship of Friends please consult Freedom of Mind. Their official website can be found at beingpresent.org

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